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ER24 to the (mountain) rescue

Paramedics are well versed in various medical emergencies, and mountain rescue might be one of the more challenging emergencies – more often than not a case of really thinking on your feet.

A few months ago, while at the ER24 East Metro base, the ER24 Contact Centre phoned for assistance for a woman who fell while doing a trail run in the Jonkershoek Mountains in Stellenbosch. ER24’s Victor Rademan and Hendrick Pool immediately responded to the scene.

“The patient’s husband met with us close to the mountain to take us to where she was laying. We drove quite a long way with the ambulance into the mountainous terrain, and at times I really didn’t think we’d make it. We managed to push through and eventually got to about 500m from where she was,” said Victor.

It is understood that she went for a trail run with a friend of hers and stopped to view the waterfall in the mountain. As they were trying to get back on the path, around the river, her foot slipped, and she fell with her back onto a rock. “She could not walk, and it seemed like she may have sustained a serious back injury,” said Victor.

Victor and Hendrick immediately tried to ease her pain and made her comfortable by providing her with a drip, some pain medication and easing her onto the spine board.

This is where the second part of the challenge of mountain rescue emerged.

“Although we struggled to get the ambulance to where the patient was, as a result of rocky and bumpy terrain, we now had to get her out of there. The rescue effort was quite long and in total, from when we received the call until arriving at the hospital, took about 3-4 hours. The majority of that time was spent navigating rough terrain safely in and out of the mountain,” said Victor.

A few weeks after the incident, the patient came to the base to thank the two paramedics for their assistance. The patient, who is also a medical professional, thanked the two paramedics by email as well: “This email is to express my gratitude for the two paramedics Victor and Hendrick that “rescued” me from a difficult terrain here in Stellenbosch. Thank you so much for your gentle care, empathy and friendliness. It must have been tough for you, but you never showed it. I felt so safe when you arrived on the scene. As a doctor, I’ve never been in a situation like that, but now I know that everyone who will cross your way will be safe and cared for.”

To this, Victor says: “You don’t do it for the thank you, but it is such a great feeling when you receive one. We also couldn’t have done it without the help of the patient’s husband. Without his assistance in showing us exactly how to get to the area, I don’t think we would have found where she was. He played a pivotal role, and having an extra set of hands, really helped us a lot.”

If you partake in hiking, trail running or any adventure sport that might be in a mountain, or a very expansive terrain remember to:

  • Have an emergency contact number saved on your phone or device
  • ER24 084 124
  • Wilderness Search and Rescue 021 937 0300
  • Metro Ambulance 112
  • Ensure that you always know where the closest access point is, a nearby landmark, or have someone that can help show the way for emergency services
  • Always tell someone where you are going
  • Install the What3Words app on your phone. Read more here on how it can help emergency services find you.